Reporters need a little “Pentagram 101”


The tetgragrammaton pentagram, pictured above, is not a “Satanic” pentagram, even if a news reporter tells you it is. Even if it’s in Texas.

Apparently a news crew in Hidalgo County, Texas, “stumbled on” a worship site they somehow think is “Satanic.” Alas, what they posted is only a teaser for a news item that aired on last night’s Action 4 10 o’clock news:

An Action 4 News crew has discovered what some believe is a ‘Satanic’ worship site in a rural area of Hidalgo County.

The site is located in a field littered with pentagrams, religious objects, paraphernalia and shows very recent signs of use.

Action 4 News spoke with neighbors and law enforcement officials about the site.

Okay. Now check out the photos that ran with this teaser. That isn’t a “Satanic” symbol at all; it’s a tetragrammaton pentagram. Many, many Christians know exactly what the tetragrammaton is: it’s the 4-letter name of God.

I know it can be difficult to tell your pentagrams apart. Good thing there’s such a thing as the Internet, where reasonable people can go to do their research before frightening loads of residents into thinking a) Satanists are scary and b) they’re running around hold “rites” in public where anyone can come across them. Satanists are no scarier than Christians, who are also known to hold their rites in public places, called churches.

So what, exactly, is the tetragrammaton pentagram, and who uses it? Well, according to altreligion.com:

19th century occultist Eliphas Levi constructed this pentagram. It is commonly interpreted as a symbol of mankind, as many pentagrams are. However, it is a symbol of many things that unite in the existence of mankind, as is evidence by the variety of additional symbols involved.

In addition to the name of God, this pentagram includes symbols of the Sun and Moon, Venus and Mercury, Alpha and Omega, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the four elements, a caduceus, and a pair of eyes representing spirit.

Although this symbol could be used by anyone wanting to honor the union of opposites, Levi’s work heavily influenced followers of Thelema and Hermeticism. Neither of which, by the way, are Satanic.

None of this is to say there would be anything wrong with this worship site if it were Satanic — this blog has stood up for peaceful Satanists plenty of times. On the other hand, if reporters are going to return to this kind of Geraldo Rivera-style fear-mongering about alternative faiths, they could at least get their facts straight. Not that Rivera did, but the news world has had at least 20 years to learn from his mistakes.

It’s important for reporters to get their facts straight when reporting on these situations (or better yet, not report on them at all, since they’re protected under the First Amendment and aren’t really newsworthy). The more people are made to misunderstand and be afraid of alternative spiritualities, the more discrimination there will be against people who belong to those spiritualities. And discrimination is no good for anybody.

Has a news report ever misrepresented your religious beliefs in any way? If so, how? What, if anything, did you do about it?

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5 responses to “Reporters need a little “Pentagram 101”

  1. This doesn’t answer your question, but while this might be true worldwide: “Many, many Christians know exactly what the tetragrammaton is: it’s the 4-letter name of God,” I doubt the majority of Texan Christians know what that is. (In my moderate experience with Texan Christians.) Not that that is a problem alternative faiths need to solve. To an observer and non-participant like me (of any faith), it just points out self-serving “facts” and misinterpretations of religious history.

    • Thanks, Tara. I can’t imagine being part of a spirituality and not wanting to know lots about it, but I guess there are all kinds of different people out there.

      • I haven’t taken any polls, but I’d bet that anything pentagonal is a huge red flag. They’re perhaps more conversant with Yahweh/YHWH than the symbolism. Also a guess on my part.

        I have a born-again Christian aunt, who’d annually protest Christmas trees (loudly) for their pagan associations, so I wonder what she’d say about something that looked like this.

        If he wasn’t so, um, abrasive and inaccessible, I’d point you to my BIL who heartily prosecutes teens (professionally) for all kinds of things. I have no idea if h is list includes alternative faiths.

  2. Wow, what does he do? Juvenile prosecutor, it sounds like. Plenty of prosecutors do use occult/goth/etc. affiliations in their prosecution strategies. Even though it’s really something that applies more to the character of the individual rather than the actual motivation to commit a crime, enough jurors are convinced that someone whose personality includes an interest in such things is just more likely to be willing to commit crimes as well, even though there’s no proof that that’s true. See also: West Memphis Three, Alexandria Boring.

    • He at least was (he moved/changed jobs) a prosecutor, handling all levels of juvenile crimes in a rural county south of Ft. Worth. I want to say he focused largely on marijuana offenses. He sees people and issues as very black-and-white, good and evil, and since this (and many pentagonal things) don’t resemble traditional symbolsof Christian goodness, I assume he’d take issue.

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